Sailor Armel Le Cleac'h wins Vendee Globe in record time

Frenchman beats Briton Alex Thomson by a matter of hours after more than ten weeks of ocean racing

Armel Le Cleac'h
(Image credit: Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images)

Armel Le Cleac'h sailed into Les Sables-d'Olonne on France's Atlantic coast on Thursday afternoon to win the 2016-17 Vendee Globe round-the-world race in a record time of 74 days three hours and 35 minutes.

The French yachtsman had finished second in the previous two races but it was third time lucky for the 39-year-old as he beat the previous record, set by compatriot Francois Gabart in the 2012-13, by almost four days.

"This is a dream come true," declared Le Cleac'h, who was welcomed home by thousands of French sailing fans. "I hoped to win this race ten years ago but I finished second... today is a perfect day. My team have been amazing they're the dream team, and this is their day too."

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Briton Alex Thomson reached Les Sables-d'Olonne early on Friday morning but according to the official Vendee Globe website he won't be able to enter the harbour until lunchtime because of tidal conditions.

The 42-year-old Welshman has been stalking his French rival for weeks, slowly closing a gap that at Cape Horn had been 900 nautical miles. On Wednesday he was just over 30 miles shy of Le Cleac'h but ultimately Thomson ran out of water in his attempt to become the first Briton to win the prestigious race.

"I'm very happy for Alex, it's a great second place," said Le Cleac'h. "It has been very difficult with him behind me, he gave me a really hard time in this Vendee Globe."

Of the 29 sailors who sailed out of Les Sables d'Olonne on 6 November, 11 were forced to abandon the non-stop race because of various problems.

Thomson, contesting his fourth Vendee Globe, has had his difficulties to overcome in the ten weeks since he left France, notably the loss of his starboard hydrofoil a fortnight into the race. That setback, according to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, cost him the race.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, the first man to complete a single-handed circumnavigation of the globe explained: "He was so close on Wednesday - he was only 30 nautical miles behind - if he had not broken that foil he would have been ahead of Le Cleac'h and quite a lot ahead of him."

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